Ravens Need to Avoid Late-Game Collapse

Street Talk Ravens Need to Avoid Late-Game Collapse

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Finish. 

That was the statement by cornerback Brandon Carr when asked what the Ravens have learned from a pair of fourth-quarter collapses that knocked them out of the playoffs over the past two seasons. 

Last year, the Ravens surrendered a 49-yard touchdown pass from Andy Dalton to Tyler Boyd on a 4th and 12 in the final minute that gave Cincinnati a 31-27 victory, allowing the Bills to secure the final postseason spot.

In 2016, Steelers receiver Antonio Brown extended the ball over the goal line on a 4-yard touchdown reception with nine seconds remaining to provide a 31-27 victory that officially eliminated Baltimore from the playoffs.

The Ravens do not want a repeat of those events in the regular-season finale against the Cleveland Browns. 

“We all have our own motivation,” Carr said. “I only have a few playoff games in my 11 years, so I have a lot of added motivation with that. But definitely, last year doesn’t sit well with us. We had a prime opportunity to extend our season, and we failed at it. We didn’t finish the job, so that’s why this year, the art of finish is big for us.

“Just finding ways to win this game by any means necessary, emptying your tank, giving it your all, and then we’ll reload for next week once we get there.”

The stakes are high for the Ravens on Sunday.

Baltimore can win the AFC North and end a three-year playoff drought with a victory. The Ravens have an 82.3 percent chance of making the playoffs and winning the division, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.

Coach John Harbaugh is not interested in reliving the past. He knows the veterans are fully cognizant of the disappointment over the last two years.  

“We all know where we’ve been,” Harbaugh said. “We don’t need to talk about anything. We all know. We’ve all learned from all of our past experiences this year, last year, previous years, all those things, the guys who have been here. The guys who weren’t here, they’re not going to understand it anyway until they experience it.

“The guys who were here, that drives us, certainly. It’s an experience that, like any experience, you want to learn from those experiences. And, when you have a gut-wrenching experience, a tough one like we had the last two years, you take those with you, and it makes you stronger. It forges you as a person, as a competitor, so that’s what I expect,” he said. 

The Ravens suffered a 12-9 overtime loss to the Browns in Week 5. However, both teams have a different look.

Baltimore rookie Lamar Jackson has gone 5-1 as the starting quarterback since taking over for Joe Flacco. In those six starts, Jackson has run for 466 yards, which ranks eighth overall in the NFL since Week 11. Overall, Jackson has rushed for 605 yards, the most among all NFL quarterbacks.

“I still have to work,” Jackson said. “There are a lot of things I still should have hit, but yeah, I’m a lot more comfortable now than I was before.”

The Browns have also played better since Gregg Williams took over for Hue Jackson, who was fired on Oct. 29 after going just 3-36-1 in two-plus seasons. Cleveland has won six of its last seven games and can earn their first winning season since 2007 by beating the Ravens. 

The Browns also would love to knock the Ravens out of the playoffs. 

“The history is what it is, and I was back in the old AFC Central all those years,” Williams said. “I was at the Houston Oilers during all of that time, so I understand that and have played against both the franchises quite a bit. But, our job right now is that every single time we go out to play, we go out to win, and one of the things we’ve talked about here is that we treat this like our playoff game.

“We wish we had more, but that goes back to we should have played better in some games earlier in the year. But right now, this is the only game we can control, and let’s go out and play this game like it’s our playoff game, and let’s make sure that people understand how hard we’re going to play each and every time. It’ll be a stepping stone into the next season, but we have to play this week. It’s the most important part of it – nothing else. Don’t look back, don’t look ahead. Play this week as well as you can,” he said. 

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Todd Karpovich

About Todd Karpovich

Todd Karpovich has been a contributor for ESPN, the Associated Press, SportsXchange, the Baltimore Sun, among other media outlets nationwide. He is the co-author of “If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Baltimore Ravens Sideline, Locker Room, and Press Box,” “Skipper Supreme: Buck Showalter and the Baltimore Orioles,” and the author of “Manchester United (Europe's Best Soccer Clubs).” Karpovich lives in Towson with his wife, Jill, daughters, Wyeth and Marta, and a pair of dogs, Sarah and Rory. More from Todd Karpovich

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